Friday, November 14, 2008

Worst-case scenario

I'm going to take a literal lesson from my friend Steve over at the Heart and Mind Blog and deconstruct a popular modern phrase which seems to have lost it's meaning through repetitive use. Today's victim:

PHRASE: "Worst-case scenario"

USAGE: Typically used by someone attempting to help another make a choice or decision; for example, taking a job or asking a girl out –

FORMAT: Stating the preferred choice, followed by the phrase "Worst-case scenario:____ then what the person perceives as the worst outcome, which usually ends up not being so bad, in an attempt to convince the other person to follow their advice.

EXAMPLE: "Dude, I think you should ask your sister's friend out, Worst-case scenario: she says no, no big deal!"

VARIATIONS: "Worse comes to worst", "What's the worst that can happen?"

Now I'm certainly guilty of using this particular phrase ad nauseum, as I am constantly trying to convince other people to see my point of view or take my advice. It's a good method of weighing the pros and cons of a particular decision; when the benefits seem to be equally balanced, the other alternative is to choose the 'lesser of two evils' as it were. But it always nagged at me whenever I said it, because deep down I knew almost certainly that what I was suggesting couldn't possibly be the WORST case scenario. Realistically, things can always get worse. 

Take the above example: Asking your sister's friend out. Is her just saying 'no' really the "worst" thing that can happen? Maybe she says no, slaps you, laughs in your face and stomps on your foot.... Maybe she says no, whips out a switchblade and starts wildly flailing about towards you, yelling "DIE, you disgusting pig!" Hell, maybe she says YES, you go out on a few dates, spend lots of money on dining out and movies, cuddling, kissing and canoodling every step of the way, and when it finally comes time to get your freak on, she gets undressed and you suddenly realize exactly what kind of 'operation' she's been going on about for the last few weeks.... You just never know.

Here's another example: You already gave your two weeks notice at work, and your boss is really ticking you off today. A co-worker may suggest that you go tell him off, the 'worst case scenario' being that he fires you... Har har. Well, yes, he may simply fire you on the spot, or he may dismiss you, then send assassins out to kill your entire family. He may choose to shrug it off, or he may grab you, beat the living crap out of you and push you out of the 12th story window his office just happens to be on. Or, he may just smile at you devilishly like Mr. Burns from The Simpsons, fingering that button on his desk you always wondered about, finally realizing it's purpose... the quick release trap door to an underground alligator pit. With these alternatives possible, just firing you would seem to be the BEST case scenario, in my opinion.
But even those examples are not really the absolute WORST that can happen. You can ask the girl out, she says no, laughs in your face, and nuclear war breaks out and the entire earth is decimated and reduced to rubble. Sure, one event isn't actually related to the other, but you have to admit that's the worst it can get... or is it? Maybe you tell your boss off, he kicks you out of his office, and the world is attacked by hideously slimy diseased alien things that instantly enslave humanity, making us their sex toys; but since our puny little genitals aren't nearly enough for their 6 ft. tall vaginas, they need to use our entire BODIES to pleasure themselves. Within days every tall thin bald man is wiped out by suffocation, leaving the rest of us to suffer an excruciating life as human dildos. Now, you tell me.... does it get any worse than that? I think not.

So, rather than relaying this horrid tale every time we try to convince others to see things our way, maybe we should refrain from attempting to predict a future we obviously know nothing about. I'm just sayin'.


Steve said...

Thanks for the plug.

Well, you know, how 'bout this...

We could avoid a whole lot of problems if we just said, "LIKELY worst case scenario." That basically softens your stance and leaves you a backdoor exit where you simply can't be held accountable.

Whaddya think?

rassmguy said...

We could try that, Steve, I agree--worse-case scenario, it wouldn't work.